Thursday, September 6, 2018

Five Seasons of Jam - Lillie O'Brien

There's not much I like about autumn generally, or September specifically. I find it a time for regrets and worry. It's also a month when it seems every item of clothing I own is either too warm or not warm enough. I'm not very enthusiastic about the huge spiders that start appearing either.

One thing I do like about this time of year though is the launch of all the books ready for Christmas. Super Thursday might still be a month away but there are a few front runners making an appearance already, including a crop of cookbooks, and let's face it, it's the cookbooks I'm particularly excited about right now anyway.

Apparently the roof of the garage attached to my flats, which I cannot use because I didn't buy a parking space when I moved in, but which I'm still partly financially responsible for, has asbestos in it. The panels have been damaged and work needs to be done, but nobody is being very forthcoming about when, or how much it will cost. I'm assuming it won't be cheap, and that the bill will land at the most inconvenient moment possible (probably just before Christmas) so I'm trying very hard not to spend at the moment.

Even so, today really demanded a treat of some sort, and with a new book from Ottolenghi ('Simple') and the release of James and Tom Morton's 'Shetland' a trip to the bookshop seemed in order. I really like the look of the Ottolenghi book, but it didn't feel like the right treat for a wet Thursday.

'Shetland: Cooking on the Edge of the World' is one I've been anticipating for a while, but now it's here I'm in two minds about it. The photography is beautiful, and in the end I'll happily buy it for that alone. What I'd hoped for however was more cookbook, it's light on recipes though, and there's very little here that I don't already know.

Then I saw 'Five Seasons of Jam'. This actually came out in June, but it's been such a hot summer that the idea of preserving hasn't been very attractive. Its cold and wet outside right now though, and this is a book full of intriguing flavour combinations - which I love.

The 5 seasons are mid to late spring, summer, early autumn, late autumn, and winter to early spring, and there's quite a few ingredients in here it would be very hard to source, certainly outside of London and away from a fruit growing area. I don't believe I've ever seen a loquat, and don't have a garden to grow sweet cicely in - so that ones out for a start, but that doesn't worry me.

At least if I ever see a green almond, or some wild fennel, never mind sea buckthorn, I'll know what to do with it. On the other hand medjool dates and chestnuts, persimmons with saffron and vanilla, salted manderines, clementine and Fino, cranberry and Sherry vinegar, Mirabelle plum (I might get lucky and find some of these) with tokay, fig and Earl grey, greengage and pecan, peach and fig leaf, green gooseberry with fig leaf - these are all things that sound amazing.

I'm always keen on any cook who can find me different things to do with Sherry or dessert wines, and I'm curious about the way O'Brian uses nuts in her jams. I've never done this, or tried anything quite like it so it will be interesting to see what the texture is like. Overall it's the way she combines flavours which grabs me though. These things sound magical, as much food for the imagination, as for the body - so just what's needed to look forward to autumn instead of wondering where the summer went.


  1. Sorry Ginny, I managed to delete your post and publish a whole lot of spam by accident. The Marian Armitage book (I think that’s the one you mentioned) is good, annoyingly I’ve lost my copy, and couldn’t replace it when I was last home. This Shetland one is beautiful to look at, and describes itself as more of a love letter to Shetland, which is fine - but I wanted recipes!

  2. How sad that you feel this way about Autumn, and September specifically. It is totally opposite for me; the start of this September has been magical with glorious sunrises and sunsets, mellow warm days and seasonal food and, best of all this morning, looking out of my east window before dawn to see Mercury, the waning Moon, Castor and Pollux and, joy of joys - Orion shining down on me. I do hope that you can feel happier soon.

    1. I do love winter though! Early autumn makes me particularly melancholy, and I've got a horrible cold at the moment which isn't helping, but onwards and upwards...

  3. I saw the Shetland book reviewed in one of the papers over the weekend and I thought of you! And I agree with you about the spiders.

    1. The photography is stunning, and the recipes it has look good, I just wish there were more. The baking chapter could be a lot stronger too, which is surprising all things considered. I know spiders don't exist to scare the bejesus out of me, but they do it anyway.